Thursday, July 31, 2008

My garlic harvest

Last October, I planted garlic in my garden. As with other bulbs, like daffodils or irises, you plant garlic bulbs in the fall, then come spring they sprout, and round about the end of July, the garlic is ready for harvest. (Click here for information on planting garlic.)

When I first started planting garlic about 10 years ago, I judged when to harvest the garlic by the fact that the lower leaves had started to turn brown. Then I stumbled on the best advice ever. It all has to do with garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes are the hollow stalks that a garlic plant sends up. It has a flower bud on its end and the scape is curled over in a kind of gooseneck shape [Photo 1]. The theory is that if you cut off the scapes, you will force the plant to put all its energy into growing a big bulb instead of growing a flower. The cut scapes [Photo 2] are actually quite tender and you can cook with them; they have a nice mild garlic flavor.

Now here's the trick I learned about knowing when to harvest garlic. When a garlic scape UNcurls and points straight up [Photo 3] in preparation for opening the flower, it's time to harvest the garlic. So when you cut off the scapes earlier in the summer, leave one scape to use as your barometer for the harvest.

Here's my harvested garlic [Photo 4]. The garlic in a freshly picked bulb is nicely pungent and almost crisp in texture. It's really rewarding to cook with your own homegrown garlic.

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